It Looks Like The SARS 2 Pandemic Is Over In China
It’s not official, and who knows (get it?) when it will be. But looking at China from 10,000 feet up I think it is safe to say that it’s over. Granted, I’m not a scientist…
To hundreds of millions of Chinese, though, the pandemic is in the rearview mirror now. The virus itself is still alive and kicking (along with millions of others), but whatever China is doing to keep its hospitals safe and its death toll next to nothing at this point, it is working in spades. Life looks a lot better there than it does in the U.S. and the increasingly panicked U.K. The defamed Imperial College epidemiologist, Neil Ferguson, who forecasted a million deaths and favored strict lockdowns while he broke the rules to visit his girlfriend, recently warned of an “uptick” in cases and an “uptick in deaths”.
Good thing he is not the guy Xi Jinping and the local provincial governors turn to for advice. The world’s No. 2 economy is humming.
More than half a billion Chinese took to the road this weekend as the National Day holiday winds down.
This should be viewed as a global test for Sars 2. If a few thousand Chinese people hanging out in Wuhan amusement parks and climbing the Great Wall aren’t a superspreader event, then it’s all over but the shouting.
Worth noting, back in May Wuhan public health officials tested over 11 million residents for traces of SARS-Cov-2 in nasal swaps. Less than 500 had it. No one needed hospitalization. The World Health Organization never commented on the results officially, nor when asked, but this seems to be the organization’s policy. Wuhan hasn’t had an outbreak since. They’re probably no longer testing. And as far as we know, Wuhan hospitals are not seeing a surge in Covid-19 patients. If they are, doctors and individuals are dealing with it the way they would any other disease at this point.
Back to the Chinese travel biz…
Travel is approaching pre-pandemic levels over the first major holiday since Covid-19 turned the country upside down. According to Chinese business newswire, Caixin, an estimated 637 million trips were booked nationwide, up to 79% of last year’s levels.
The travel surge this weekend reportedly looked like life pre-pandemic, complete with traffic jams and shoulder to shoulder crowds at tourist attractions, according to Caixin, a trusted business news publisher.
The fact that not everyone is wearing a mask suggests there is no strictly enforced mandate, or that the Chinese people no longer feel it is necessary to wear one. They’re not scared. (But we are terrified, apparently, and some leaders are still toying with mandates.)
China still has restrictions on air travel, requiring two week quarantines especially for overseas tourists and those returning from abroad.
There is no public health crisis in China, except maybe on paper in a few districts in cities you can count on one hand. They are not making national news in China, where — and if — they exist. The mainland China business press is not reporting about it.
Chinese public health authorities would probably not let so many people travel freely if there was a risk of spreading the virus to a point where they face the risk of a lockdown repeat. No one in China wants this, and Beijing cannot afford it.
For now, China remains more “all systems go”. No other major nation out there can say this. (Asian economic powers Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea and Japan are also doing well.)
Spending on the first day of the holiday, which began on October 1, brought in an estimated 76.65 billion yuan ($11.3 billion), according to the government. China Tourism Academy, a Ministry level agency, had originally forecast that travel numbers would be off by about 30% from a year ago. But it now looks like travel was down by around 23%, a nice little upside surprise that should keep China bulls happy.
China’s economic progress and its relationship with SARS 2 stands in stark contrast to the U.S. and U.K., two peas in a pod when it comes to the hysterics and the political polarization this pandemic has caused.
The pandemic has delivered a knock-out punch to the global tourism industry.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, airline bookings are down a whopping 92% as of September. Occupancy rates at hotels on a global scale are down 47% as of August.
The global tourism industry is expected to lose at least $1.2 trillion in 2020.
China tourists are staying home, hurting European travel — especially urban hotels and urban luxury retailers.
China’s government has been working overtime promoting local tourism, and it is building up their duty free island of Hainan which developers hope will attract those who already have experienced the cache of buying a Louis Vuitton handbag in Paris, and are fine buying it locally. Sales supposedly rose this past week, according to The Global Times.
China has a few hundred million consumers; even if 1% of them stayed home for travel it could be a boon to tourist hotspots Hainan, the Chengdu Giant Panda Research Center and, of course, Shanghai Disney.
China’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism recently issued the “Notice on Further Business Resumption of Tourism Enterprises,” which raises the operating capacity of tourism sites from 30% to 50% of permitted capacity. As a result of this policy change, and as overall market conditions continue to rebound, Shanghai Disneyland has been doubled its capacity from 25% to 50% allowable crowd totals.
As of September, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development forecast a 1.8% expansion in Chinese GDP growth for the year.
China is the only G20 nation set for growth in 2020. You’d never know that this entire global health crisis began in a third tier city few outside of China have heard about until now. A reduction of the fear sentiment is surely helping. It’s been warranted. There’s no surge in China.